On Monday July 4th, every American celebrated their Independence Day. It was also the day NBA star Kevin Durant decided to leave The Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that labeled him "the face of the franchise", for The Golden State Warriors. This has prompted many Thunder Fans to take to social media and posts videos on YouTube of them displaying their emotions and heartbreak in ways like burning his jersey. Some might say he "took the easy way out", but the fact is he just did what he felt he had to do. I respect him for that. For The Baltimore Ravens, they are a team that prides itself on right player, right price. They will not overspend to re-sign free agents and they know when it is the right time to let a player go. The team also plays it smart by usually keeping the players they know they have to keep at the most important positions. In that process though, the team has left some players leave in free agency who fans I'm sure wanted to keep. A few may not be on the level of Kevin Durant, but they still made an impact on the franchise that made Ravens Nation excited to see them play every Sunday.
Luckily, The Ravens really haven't had a truly big free agency departure that has caused an uproar amongst Ravens fans because of the fact that there is a lot of trust in the front office in terms of their decision making. Which actually makes the question even more intriguing. This was tough to compile but lets get started with some notable free agent departures that may have left Ravens fans in a sea of heartbreak.
Quick reminder that I am only doing unrestricted free agent losses, so trades of notable players like Anquan Boldin and Haloti Ngata don't count. That being said, lets get started.
"Can't Wait!" Those are the words that will forever define fiery linebacker Bart Scott. Even though he said this in a Jets uniform, he displayed that type of attitude in his 7 year career with the Ravens. It wasn't easy for Scott, he had to do it the hard way as he was a undrafted free agent in 2002 and in his first 3 years with the team he was a Special Teams standout but got little playing time on defense. 2005 was his first real shot as linebacker Ray Lewis went down and Scott would man The General's position. He started all 10 games that Lewis was out and played in all 16 games total notching 119 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery. Scott was rewarded with a 3-year contract extension and he would reward the team back by having a career year in 2006 and making his only Pro Bowl. Scott would man the inside linebacker position opposite Ray Lewis for 2 more years before becoming a free agent in 2009. While the Ravens were still vying for his services, he decided to sign a 6-year $48 million contract with The New York Jets. Joining his defensive coordinator in Baltimore, turned head coach, Rex Ryan. His feisty attitude and hard nosed toughness was loved among Ravens fans and its players like Scott that remind fans of the glory days of the Ravens defense and hope that those days can return soon.
Before their was Ray Rice, there was Jamal Lewis. A big bruising running back that helped define the Ravens offense. No, scratch that, he WAS the Ravens offense. The teams inept quarterback play with signal callers such as Trent Dilfer, Elvis Grbac, Anthony Wright, Chris Redman and Kyle Boller, Lewis was the anchor and the horse of the offense. While he was such a key piece to the Ravens Super Bowl run of 2000, it was 2003 that put Jamal Lewis in the record books. He rushed for 2,066 yards that year, only falling just 39 yards short of the all time single season rushing record set by Eric Dickerson. He also ran for 295 yards against The Cleveland Browns breaking Corey Dillion's mark of 275. He was a big catalyst to helping the Ravens win the AFC North division with a very young team as he won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award for 2003. In his final year with the team in 2006 he posted 1,132 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns. Helping the Ravens to a 13-3 record and another AFC North Division title. While the Ravens released him after the 2006 season, general manager Ozzie Newsome wanted to re-sign Lewis like he previously did a year ago after the team declined the franchise tag on Lewis. Unfortunately, history would not repeat itself as Lewis would go to the division rival Cleveland Browns for the 2007 season. To make matters worse, he would rush for 1,304 yards and score 9 touchdowns as he helped the Browns post their last winning record at 10-6 in 2007, while the Ravens fell to 5-11, including being swept by Lewis's Browns. Jamal Lewis is widely regarded as one of the top 10 players in the history of the Ravens and was the perfect running back for the team in a division with such backs like Corey Dillion, Rudi Johnson and Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis.
This might be the big one for most Ravens fans. If Ray Lewis was "The Don", Ed Reed was "The Capo." Reed manned the secondary for 11 years and would become arguably, the greatest ball hawking safety of all time. Ravens fans were proud to have #20 as one of their own, they saw Pittsburgh and the amount of hype that Troy Polamalu got from the national media and their response was "That's cool, we got Ed Reed." Reed was a better player than Polamalu, that's not a debate, that's a fact. Reed was a 9x Pro Bowler, 2004 Defensive Player of the year, 3x interceptions leader, part of the 2000 NFL All-Decade Team as a first teamer, and holds the NFL record for the most interception return yards (1,590) and the longest interception return in NFL history with 108 yards in 2008, which was originally set in 2004 by, you guessed it, Ed Reed. He's just the best. Ed Reed will forever be remembered as one of the main cornerstones of the franchise. He along with Lewis and Jonathan Ogden, defined what it means to "Play like a Raven." Ravens fans wanted Ed to stay in Baltimore and finish his career where it began just like Ogden and Lewis. It would've been a storybook ending to Lewis and Reed's career together if they both would've retired after winning Super Bowl 47 and riding into the sunset by finally fulfilling a dream they worked so hard to achieve ever since Reed's arrival in 2002. For Ed personally, it was even better that he got his first Super Bowl championship in his home state of Louisiana. Unfortunately, not all stories have happy endings as Reed decided he wanted to play another season. Even with his numerous injuries, his age and his play declining, fans still wanted him to return and finish his career in Baltimore just like Lewis and Ogden before him. That would not be the case as he signed one more big contract with The Houston Texans for a total of 3-years, worth $15 million and $5 million guaranteed. The numerous injuries and the amount of years that Reed pondered retirement finally caught up to him as he played poorly in Houston, seeing his playing time reduced and eventually be replaced by safety Shiloh Keo. After being released by the Texans, Reed would reunite with one of his mentors from Baltimore in Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Instead of hoisting The Lombardi Trophy, my lasting memory of Reed is the once great safety getting beat over the top by former teammate Jacoby Jones as Joe Flacco went after Reed on a 66 yard touchdown pass as the Ravens defeated the Jets 19-3. Reed officially announced his retirement last year.
These are just some names of a long list of players who have left The Baltimore Ravens in free agency over their 2 decade history. I'm not saying these players garnered a reaction that Cleveland Cavalier fans had when Lebron James left and now Thunder fans with Durant, but I think they were big losses at the time of their departures. These 3 players were also beloved by the Ravens fan base and some may even had one of them as their personal favorite on the team. For me personally, while I loved watching Ray and Ed, with Ray being my favorite player, Jamal Lewis was always my second favorite player growing up and watching the Ravens during those years. It hurt seeing him not just be released and leave knowing Ozzie wanted him back, but he wound up signing with The Cleveland Browns and going to the "Factory of Sadness." Heck, when Reed became an assistant defensive backs coach for Rex Ryan's Buffalo Bills for the 2016 season, there were a lot of Ravens fans outraged that the Ravens did not bring him in to help coach up the defense.
In your opinion, which Ravens departure hurt the most for you as a fan? Is it one of these three players that I listed? Is it someone else?